Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Premier Division review: Laura Unsworth taken to hospital as Surbiton men prevail

Laura Unsworth was taken to hospital for a precautionary neck scan after a two-hour stoppage during East Grinstead’s Europe-chasing match against Hampstead & Westminster in the England Hockey Women’s Vitality Premier Division.

The incident occured at 1-1 in the first-half at Paddington Rec as players went for the ball at the top of the D, which ended with Unsworth banging her head on the turf. With several players going for the ball, it was an accidental knock and it is not known if a stick was involved.

With officials worried about whiplash and taking in head injury protocols, the match was immediately halted and Unsworth unmoved on the floor as an ambulance was called and she was taken to Westminster’s St Mary’s Hospital.

Unsworth, who has a busy summer ahead with England, later left A&E with a stiff and sore neck.

Once play resumed – Autumn Bowden’s early goal for the visitors cancelled out a minute later by Mel Wilkinson – H&W prevailed 3-1 to take the second European club spot for next season for the first time.

“Over the season, we knew they were going to be a team to beat. We have to recognise they have depth and they were clinical. Congratulatons to them,” said East Grinstead coach Mary Booth, who will now be hoping Unsworth is fit for the club’s EuroHockey Club Trophy campaign this week in Milan.

With the lengthy delay, H&W, who finished third in the curtailed 2019/20 season, knew they had qualified for Europe after Surbiton and Wimbledon drew 1-1 at Sugden Road.

Darcy Bourne finished as Vitality Women’s Premier Division top scorer (19 goals to Sophie Bray’s 18), with the Surbiton and England player scoring a penalty stroke before Eliza Brett’s goal gave Wimbledon hope.

Meanwhile, Beeston and Clifton Robinsons drew 3-3, while Buckingham held off Loughborough Students 2-1 thanks to a Kitty Higgins double, and Holcombe beat University of Birmingham 3-2.

In the men’s Premier Division, Surbiton‘s authoritative 5-1 win over Wimbledon means that the race for Europe between the two clubs will go down to the final weekend after Easter. Alex Williams scored a double for the hosts.

Surbiton’s victory means that Wimbledon still hold on to second place in the top flight, a two-point advantage the gap with the Londoners travelling to champions Old Georgians on the final day.

Surbiton now need to win at Hampstead & Westminster to stand any chance of making sure of a European berth. H&W beat East Grinstead 6-0 on Saturday.

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